Monday, 20 March 2017

Greenglass House by Kate Mitford

This was a rather charming book, definitely for slightly younger than young adult readers, or maybe around early teenage years if they're looking for something cozy. It is pleasantly twisty, without ever really being super tense. I was always pretty sure things would work out, and that is not at all a criticism. Greenglass House is a warm and welcoming book.

Milo, the main character, lives in an inn at the top of a very high hill that is mostly frequented by smugglers. He is looking forward to a quiet Christmas with his parents with no guests at all, until they start showing up, one after another, all with ulterior motives, making his Christmas look very bleak indeed.

The housekeeper and her daughter Meddy show up to help Milo's family accommodate the unexpected guests, and Milo is conscripted by Meddy into investigating what's going on, using the fiction of a roleplaying game. Now, having played a lot of roleplaying games, I both liked this (particularly the idea of intergenerational bonds of playing games together), and was a little...nonplussed.

I'm not sure what roleplaying, specifically, added to what they were doing, that couldn't just be accomplished by having them play Let's Pretend. They were using no mechanics, after all, no real use of a system or virtually anything else, except for labelling certain elements of clothing after artifacts from the game, and certain actions became something Milo would consider doing when he wouldn't before because they were part of his character class.

It's all fine, and I am happy to have my favourite hobby incorporated into a story, and Milo and Meddy create fun characters to inhabit as they explore the house, but is it roleplaying? I mean, more than Let's Pretend? Do kids not play Let's Pretend anymore? Does it have to be dressed up in the guise of a formal game? Because, dude, I organized Let's Pretend games like nobody's business, and I would be very sorry to hear that wasn't a thing anymore.

This is splitting hairs, and again, this is all so warmly done it wasn't a major problem.

Milo finds that what he's discovering has personal resonance, as he starts to find clues about children without families. He had been adopted as a child, and has always wondered about his birth family, a curiosity his loving parents support.

Old stories of smugglers and shootouts and the possibility of hidden treasures in the walls and windows of the house where Milo lives abound, and he and Meddy slowly unravel the puzzle of what brought each person to the house, and closer to the one dangerous truth lurking.

There is never a moment where this is dreadfully tense, but there are still some dramatic scenes as all the pieces fall into place. Definitely a book for older children or young adults in a particular kind of mood, this is charming and worth a read.

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